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How Hellraiser's Jamie Clayton Approached Playing Pinhead - Exclusive

There are few characters in the history of the modern horror film that can be branded with the long-overused word "iconic." Michael Myers, aka The Shape, is one. Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger are others. And then there is the nameless creature that leads a race of evil beings known as the Cenobites, a priest-like figure given the unofficial name of Pinhead.

Pinhead first appeared in Clive Barker's novella "The Hellbound Heart," the basis for the 1987 movie "Hellraiser." A being of indeterminate gender with the voice of "an excited girl," the entity also known later as the Hell Priest (Barker didn't even give it a name at first) was initially embodied on the screen by actor Doug Bradley. It gained its nickname from the film's production crew, due to the nails driven into its tattooed head.

Bradley played Pinhead for eight out of the first 10 "Hellraiser" films, becoming the symbol of the franchise and one of the most recognizable figures in the horror genre. With a new reboot now arriving on Hulu, directed by David Bruckner and simply titled "Hellraiser," Pinhead — billed in the new movie as The Priest — has been reimagined as well, played this time by transgender actress Jamie Clayton.

"[It's] the biggest challenge I've had in my career emotionally, physically, [and] mentally," Clayton told Looper in our exclusive interview about taking on the role of one of the most famous monsters in horror history. "And I loved it."

Clayton calls the role of Pinhead 'sexy' and 'fun'

Jamie Clayton told us that she only watched the first "Hellraiser" for the first time the night before taping her audition, explaining that she did so "to get an idea of the tone of the world and the characters and the color palette and the music, and to see what Clive [Barker] had done originally and get an idea of what his intention was with it."

Next, she read the script for the new film, explaining, "I was so completely floored because it was so good; it was so sexy and so fun." The idea of embodying a character that had been portrayed so memorably by Doug Bradley never really weighed on her: "I think David and the producers and the writers had the idea to cast a woman in the role of the Priest because it takes the burden off the audience of comparing the performances, because it's going to be new no matter how you look at it."

One aspect of playing the role that was the same for both Clayton and Bradley was how long the whole makeup process took. "Depending on the day ... [it could take] anywhere between four and a half to six hours," said Clayton. "Then, if there were a lot of people on me, 30 minutes to take it off."

But Clayton added that transforming visually into the Priest brought the character fully to life for her. "Getting into the full prosthetics and the full costume helped me get to this sexy, dark, interesting, wild place in my imagination that I didn't know existed, which was so fun," she explained. "We did something different enough that it won't be compared and that people will enjoy the sensuality of it."

"Hellraiser" is streaming now on Hulu.